What the hell was it with these stupid eye ducts that they only seemed to like flexing their stealthy ways when the sheikh was around?
The stunned sound of his voice sickened me. His cockiness and overall assholery I could handle, but that fucking note of pity?
More tears flowed, and I ran out of the room without another word, aghast at the way I was acting. I had always despised the way Dahlia constantly used tears as a weapon, and yet here I was, practically doing the same fucking—-
The sheikh had caught just as I was about to reach the stairs, his fingers cupping my elbow as he whirled me around to face him again. “I’m sorry, habibti—-”
“Fuck you!” I tried shoving him off, but he was immovable as a wall.
“It was not my intention to make you cry—-”
“You’re wrong,” I yelled. “I’m not crying!” But since I had also ended sobbing the words out, I could only wish the floor would swallow me up then and there. God. This was so fucking humiliating, and at that moment all I wanted was just to go and not see his face for a thousand years. I tried kicking him and pummeling his chest with my fists in an effort to free myself, but this only had the sheikh hauling me into his arms.
But this only made him press my face close to his chest, and as he tucked the top of my head under his chin, I heard him say, “Will you let me explain about my answer earlier?”
I tried shaking my head, but the sheikh once again pushed my head back down to his chest.
“Let me rephrase that. I am to explain, and you are to listen.”
That was supposed to be an F-bomb for the piece of sheikh, but with my face smashed against his bare chest, the sound came out all warbled.
“I lead the kind of life that almost always requires me to put on a mask, habibti. The mask changes, depending on who I’m with. But in most cases—-” A curious note of self-mockery entered the sheikh’s voice. “I’m what you would no doubt describe as a ‘smooth bastard’. I would never make the mistake of – how do you Americans say it? Putting the foot in one’s mouth?”
I nodded against his chest.
“And if I were to say or do something that would ruffle certain feathers, it would likely be intentional. But other than that?”
His arms loosened, and I automatically stepped back so I could meet his gaze.
“For almost every second of my life, all of my words and actions are calculated to deliberate. And for the most part, I have learned to live with this because I know it is necessary, for someone in my position—-” He saw me open my mouth and rolled his eyes. “For the last time, Ms. Teller – no. I am not involved in any organized crime. What is it with this obsession of yours?”
“I watched 365 DNI on Netflix?” I saw the sheikh frown and said hurriedly, “Never mind that. Just continue with your explanation.”
“Do I need to explain more?”
He didn’t, actually.
“I think I’d rather hear you say—-”
“What makes you different?”
“You remember, when I spoke of our circumstances as a gift of fate?”
I nodded again.
“It is something I truly believe in. You and I have extremely different lives, and it could only be destiny that have placed you in my path. The first time we met—-”
There was that flash of his lip curling again, and I had to bite back a smile.
“No. She was merely the means for me to meet you, but other than that, she has no other importance. You, however…when we met, there was this instant and inexplicable connection between us—-”
“Hate at first sight?” I quipped.
The sheikh smiled. “Actually, yes. There was something about you that made me feel this rare desire to let all of my walls down…”
To love you, was what I secretly hoped he’d say, but instead…
“To be cruel to you.”
My jaw dropped. “Seriously?”
“I have never felt anything like it with anyone before.”
“Are you fucking serious?”
“It is amazing, habibti, the way you bring out the worst in me.”
“God, you are such an asshole.”
“It’s why I knew. You were indeed the woman I have been looking for.”
“Because I make a great punching bag,” I asked sarcastically, “and an outlet for all of your evil ways?”
“Do not forget” he said solemnly, “about being the oven for my bun.”
I couldn’t help laughing even though I knew he was only pretending to have gotten the idiom wrong, and despite all those horrible things he had said…
I actually found myself believing all those things he said about leading a severely restrictive life and discovering this instant connection between us…
But more importantly…
He made me feel special.
And it was the right kind of different, even if it involved him actually wanting to bully me and no one else.